The Senate version of voucher expansion serves as a stunning rebuke of SFO agent, Step Up for Students, and one which will keep it from expanding and further enriching its executives. Lynn Hatter explains in WFSU‘s website:
Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) says his plan will add more accountability to the groups that administer the program, called scholarship funding organizations or SFO’s. There are now three of them, including longtime administrator, Step Up For Students.
“It prohibit eligible contribution and application fees from being used fro lobbying or political activity or related expenses,” Galvano says. “It strengthens accountability for SFO’s by increasing audit requirements, requiring the auditor general to conduct annual operational audits of SFO’s.”
Galvano also wants to give the state auditor general the ability to review the programs and mandate background checks for owners and operators.
Looks like Senate republicans didn’t buy Step Up for Students plaintive wails that they’d done nothing wrong when numerous accounts revealed otherwise. The Senate didn’t give SUFS the expansion they wanted and cut it off well below the income threshold they planned on.
Step Up for Students, in fact, lost everything except the thing the one thing they couldn’t lose to survive: voucher schools still don’t have to take the same tests that public schools do. From Lloyd Dunkelberger in the Lakeland Ledger:
The Senate bill would not require voucher students to take a state assessment test — like the FCAT — although it does provide that option to the parents of the students.
It would require more reporting on the norm- referenced tests that the voucher school students must take. The data, most of which will reflect statewide results, will be compiled by the Learning System Institute at Florida State University. But schools, which have more than 51 percent of their students receiving vouchers, will have to report results on school- by-school basis.
Galvano must have known where the red line was to ensure that Florida’s voucher system remained intact. And Step Up for Students must know that voucher schools cannot take the same tests as do public schools and that they fell on their sword on everything else.
Test weary Floridians won’t buy this latest republican voucher gambit, and are justified in asking why vouchers schools don’t want to be held accountable.